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West African ministers to hold extra-ordinary session on EPA

West African Ministers overseeing the negotiation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the region and the European Union (EU) will meet in an extraordinary session in Ouagadougou yesterday to review the status of the negotiation of the agreement and chart a way forward for the region.
The EPA envisages the creation of a free trade area of the two regions.
The meeting of the Ministerial Monitoring Committee (MMC) will also review the implementation of its directives at their 5th October 2007 meeting held in Abidjan.
The ministers had asked the ECOWAS Commission to liaise with the EU so that it would submit a request to the General Council of the World Trade Organization (WTO) for an extension of the subsisting waiver so that  West African countries can continue to enjoy the preferential trade  regime granted under the 2000 Cotonou Agreement. 
The current waiver will end by 31st December 2007 when the negotiation was originally scheduled to have been completed under the Cotonou Agreement.
The extension will therefore ensure that an additional time frame is granted beyond this deadline so that the ensuing agreement is mutually beneficial. 
During the Abidjan meeting, the MMC had  noted that the 31st December  2007 deadline was not feasible to conclude an EPA negotiation that takes  due account of  outstanding issues of concern to  West Africa. 
Specifically, they said this in view of the scope of the outstanding activities to be implemented, particularly joint definition of EPA support programmes and their financing by the European Commission, preparation of market access schedules for both parties and formulation of the text of the agreement.
The delay in the implementation of these activities, they added, does not objectively make it possible to conclude by 31st December 2007, an agreement that is comprehensive, balanced and mutually advantageous to both parties.  
The Ouagadougou meeting will therefore consider and adopt a more realistic road map for the region towards the completion of the negotiation.

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